Few days ago I got into conversation about Montessori toys…As I think about it deeper, the term ‘Montessori’ became just fashion and label for all educational and cool stuff out there but Maria Montessori’s philosophy and her material is about something else.
What is Montessori material?
Montessori material was designed by Maria Montessori herself. As she first worked with mentally handicapped children the apparatus was primarily made for their use. Some of materials were taken from Itard and Sequin and adjusted by Montessori according to the needs of the children in her House of Children. When she made her own apparatus for the normal children she had let the children work with them and she observed the frequency of use and the advantages derived from them. Through the trial and error method she modified her apparatus that allows to detect the defects at an early stage and correct them. For example the sound boxes can detect deafness and the color boxes can detect color blindness.
Maria Montessori is not talking about the toys. According to her, child in process of play works and that’s why she is talking about materials. Materials which have to be presented to child in such a beautiful and organized way that it feels like getting the gift. Only beautiful things attract our senses, allow the brain to work and create millions of new neural connections.
Characteristics of Montessori material:
* Natural materials
* Beautiful – all of the material is aesthetically pleasing.
* Neat and clean
* Complete – all of the material must be complete. This allows the child to finish through the entire piece of work without having to stop and find a missing piece.
* It has control of error – this calls to the child to make the corrections himself.
* Each material isolates one quality – this allows the child to focus on that one quality.
* Limited -there is only one of each material in the environment (building of patience in other children present) and only few qualities are presented to the child. The child is not given every color in the world, but only a selected few. This gives the child the key to the information so it peaks his curiosity.
“The technique of my method as it follows the guidance of the natural physiological and psychical development of the child, may be divided into three parts:
Motor education. Sensory education. Language.
The care and management of the environment itself afford the principal means of motor education, while sensory education and the education of language are provided for by my didactic material.” M.Montessori
Montessori categorized the Sensory Exercises into eight different groups: Visual, Tactile, Baric, Thermic, Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory, and Stereognostic. The material she developed has either never been seen or never been used by the child in his everyday life. With this said however, the child will receive no new experiences through the use of the material. This was purposefully thought through in order to give the child what he knows, but might not yet realize, and to then refine his knowledge. In order to do this, the material is presented in a specific way or in a specific pattern.
“The didactic material for the education of the senses consists of:
(a) Three sets of solid insets.
(b) Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, comprising: (1) Pink cubes. (2)
Brown prisms. (3) Rods: (a) colored green; (b) colored alternately red and blue.
(c) Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid, sphere, cylinder, cone, etc.).
(d) Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth surfaces.
(e) A collection of various stuffs.
(f) Small wooden tablets of different weights.
(g) Two boxes, each containing sixty-four colored tablets.
(h) A chest of drawers containing plane insets.
(i) Three series of cards on which are pasted geometrical forms in paper.
(k) A collection of cylindrical closed boxes (sounds).
(l) A double series of musical bells, wooden boards on which are painted the lines used in music, small wooden discs for the notes.
Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing and Arithmetic:
(m) Two sloping desks and various iron insets.
(n) Cards on which are pasted sandpaper letters.
(o) Two alphabets of colored cardboard and of different sizes.
(p) A series of cards on which are pasted sandpaper figures (1, 2, 3, etc.).
(q) A series of large cards bearing the same figures in smooth paper for the enumeration
of numbers above ten.
(r) Two boxes with small sticks for counting.
(s) The volume of drawings belonging specially to the method, and colored pencils.
(t) The frames for lacing, buttoning, etc., which are used for the education of the movements of the hand.
(u) Beads material.
(v) Binomial cube. ” M.Montessori
Most importantly, all of the material could be called “materialized abstractions”.This means that in Montessori materials, abstract concepts are made into concrete materials.
If above written is Montessori material then remaining toys can be called Montessori inspired or educational materials.